by Alex on May 31, 2012
Ibrahim Maalouf has just completed his third album in a triptych of music. Diagnostic is the final piece in the set, released on Harmonia Mundi / Mi’ster Productions. Maalouf is a composer and master trumpet player who was born in Lebanon and is based in France. He can jump between styles with ease, incorporating a diverse array of instruments into each of his compositions. On Diagnostic Maalouf hired Zalindê, a 17-member, all-female, Brazilian-style batucada ensemble to pound out heavy rhythms. When the time came to record this album, Maalouf composed and played most of the parts in the studio.
“For Diagnostic, I wanted to take the minimum of things, only things that were the most important for me. Even each track is dedicated and inspired by somebody very close to me: My sisters, daughter, mother, and father. And of course Beirut, my hometown.” – Ibrahim Maalouf
Ibrahim Maalouf was surrounded by music as child, growing up around noted artists, musicians, and intellectuals. His father Nassim, a respected trumpet player, introduced Ibrahim to the four-valve quartertone trumpet. He took his first cues from his father, but within no time Ibrahim began to play Arab scales in his own way. The rest is history. Although he is classically trained, Maalouf doesn’t consider himself a classical performer or jazz musician. He doesn’t even consider himself a trumpet player.
“For twenty years, I played classical trumpet at a very high level, and it would be a big waste of time not to use this instrument that I know so well. But trumpet isn’t the principal actor in my albums; there’s no principal actor, anyway. It’s a mix of many instruments, many colors and styles. And this mix comes from all that is around me.” – Ibrahim Maalouf
A mix of styles indeed. One of the most rewarding things about listening to Diagnostic for the first time is trying to figure out where Maalouf is going next as he jumps from Balkan Brass to Latin beats to Andean folk music all in the blink of an eye. Beirut, Paris and New York have a rich history of culture which you can hear on this record. While Maalouf may be more concerned with the compositional side of things, his trumpet playing is phenomenal, driving the album forward and connecting all the pieces together. This is a remarkable record that deserves plenty of spins. It gets better every time you hear it. Watch a powerful performance of “Lily / Will Soon Be a Woman” from ArtRock 2012 below and pick up Diagnostic today. Maalouf will be performing on June 21 at Drom and as part of Make Music New York at the French Embassy cultural services. You can’t afford to miss Ibrahim Maalouf live.
by Alex on May 30, 2012
Doc Watson passed away yesterday at the age of 89 after complications from abdominal surgery last week. Arthel Lane “Doc” Watson was an American folk music treasure, famous for his acoustic flatpicking and fingerpicking styles. Watson was born in Deep Gap, North Carolina, in the Blue Ridge Mountains and grew up with eight brothers and sisters. He went blind after leaving an eye infection untreated when he was only about a year old. His father made him a banjo using the skin of a dead cat when he was eleven years old. “He brought it to me and put it in my hands, and said, ‘Son, I want you to learn to play this thing real well. One of these days we’ll get you a better one,’ he said. ‘Might help you get through the world,’ ” Watson recalled.
Watson was determined to play music and his parents made sure he had what he needed to get by without sight or money. His father traded a week’s worth of pay at the sawmill for a hand-cranked phonograph that came with 50 records, including country, blues and jazz. All of these sounds filled Watson’s head as he incorporated what he heard into Appalachian music. He worked on his father’s farm and cut down trees to save up for his first acoustic guitar. Within no time, Watson was playing songs on street corners. In the 1950s, he began playing in a square dance band that lacked a fiddler, so he learned how to play the fiddle parts on his guitar. This was one of the most important moments in the history of the guitar. Up to that time, the guitar was mostly used as a backup to banjos and fiddles. Watson revolutionized the guitar by playing melody lines in a fast, flatpicking style that stole the stage. He is also one of the few traditional pickers that went from electric guitar to acoustic guitar as the folk revival gathered steam in the 1960s. A Smithsonian folklorist named Ralph Rinzler convinced him to hit the folk circuit.
“I was skeptical. He said, ‘Now you’ve got something to offer in the way of entertainment in the folk revival. We want to get you out there.’ You wouldn’t believe the lonesome trips I did on that old big Trailways bus all the way to New York all by myself.” – Doc Watson
The transformation worked and Watson became one of the most recognized acoustic players in the world. His performances at the Newport Folk Festival are legendary. He never played a tune the same way twice, improvising his picking to keep things exciting. His soulful voice embodied the struggle facing the characters portrayed in his repertoire of songs. Watson gave us so much music, revitalizing old songs and making new songs sound vintage. He educated the world on Appalachian mountain music and played his heart out. His influence will live on forever. Watch Doc Watson perform “Deep River Blues” below.
by Alex on May 29, 2012
Caramelo release their debut album entitled Ride today. This exciting group from NYC mixes flamenco with funk, r&b, soul, rock and Latin grooves. Their sound is as diverse as the city they call home. The band is made up of top notch musicians and flamenco dancers. Sara Erde provides sensual, bilingual vocals while flamenco singer Alfonso Cid adds his own gritty, soulful voice to the mix. Duende is the spirit of expression and energy that drives flamenco and Caramelo is full of it. Their New-World sound and unexpected instrumentation celebrates the many layers of flamenco music. While Sevilla, Spain is the home of flamenco, Sara knew the group had to find their own identity.
“In flamenco, people always sing about the neighborhood they are from. That authenticity, that sense of place is so important. That’s the starting point for our music.” – Sara Erde
Sara Erde and guitarist Jed Miley met in New York and shared a passion for flamenco. More importantly, they shared a vision to combine flamenco with the sounds of the city streets. Traditional palos and NYC club beats seemed a natural fit with the endless musical possibilities found in Manhattan and Brooklyn. Flamenco funk for the masses with a Gypsy soul twist. Caramelo is made up of Jed Miley (flamenco/electric guitars), Sara Erde, Sol “La Argentinita,” Isabel del Día, Xianix Barrera, and Raquel Aurelia (vocals/dance), Mireya Ramos (vocals/violin), Alfonso Cid (cante/flute), Jose Moreno (cante/percussion/dance), Vladimir Shvets (accordion), Sean Kupisz (bass), and Joshua Castillo (drums). This music is fresh and upbeat, guaranteed to get you dancing in no time. Don’t take my word for it, watch the video for “The Girl Is Gone” below. Catch Caramelo at their release party for Ride at Drom on June 2nd with special guests from Antibalas, Chicha Libre, and Gregorio Uribe Big Band. Grab the CD at your local record store today.
by Alex on May 25, 2012
The Spy from Cairo aka Zeb releases his latest album, Arabadub, May 29th on Wonderwheel Recordings. Zeb is Italian by birth, Gypsy by heritage and a New Yorker by residence. Music played a big part in Zeb’s upbringing as his father was a musician and would bring his friends over to play music until dawn. Zeb would stay awake to be a part of the festivities, getting his real education before he even got to school that day. Zeb has been associated with many acts in NYC, including Turntables on the Hudson for close to twelve years. In addition to the Spy from Cairo, Zeb has produced dozens of album under his name and the Organic Grooves Project. He has also remixed everyone from Baba Maal to Tosca to Billie Holliday to Novalima.
Zeb has always appreciated Middle Eastern folk music and Jamaican music. It seems it was only a matter of time before he merged the two distinct sounds into his own organic dub. Zeb didn’t want to make a sample-heavy dub album and instead he decided to play the traditional stringed instruments himself, including the oud, chifteli and saz. He also does all the programming himself, without excessive knob twiddling. Arabadub is the result of a lot of work that pays off. The Spy from Cairo has produced an incredible album that sounds open with space, not suffering from over production or a reliance on keyboards. Right from the start, Arabadub impresses with “Alladin Dub.” The deep bass lines and acoustic strings blend perfectly in a ska-infused opener. The video for “Alladin Dub” is equally as brilliant, with its artistic tribute to the adventures of Prince Achmed. This fine record proves that Middle Eastern and Jamaican music can groove harmoniously in a tight, natural dub. Grab Arabadub at your local record store on May 29th and celebrate the release with the Spy from Cairo at Nublu in NYC on June 7th.